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Winter Challenge 2023 - Final Preparations at Rally HQ in Troyes

Standing firm with new tradition, the 22nd Winter Challenge to Monte-Carlo will be held entirely on French roads to offer crews maximum time in the wintery conditions craved by competitors brave enough to challenge themselves and their motorcar on this red status event. The Winter Challenge plays on the charm and rustic authenticity of its innovative values which helps to keep the original winter classic rally quite unique.

Winter Challenge 2023 - Final Preparations at Rally HQ in Troyes

“This one is always difficult, there’s a labyrinth of roads in the south which make it hard to know where you should be going – my favourite part is getting to the finish!” Andrew Duerden.

A warning from rally HQ 2023 which is set in the Parc naturel de la Foret d’Orient outside the medieval city of Troyes in France, a tranquil setting in which was chosen to keep each of the 33 rally crews calm before the start of one of historic rallying’s most demanding events in the Alps.

It is graded as a red difficult rally, which will lead the cars through classic rally territory in the south of France taking them all the way to the infamous Col de Turini and into Monte Carlo, the glittering prize for those who make it all the way.

Will Rutherford, the Clerk of the Course, was on hand to outline the Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo. “Hopefully we will have five great days of rallying down across France. The plan for the first couple of days is go through some quite historic sections of route well known for this rally from years gone by, finishing leg one in Clermont Ferrand at the Michelin museum, which will be really good. It’s a great place to visit, the next leg we are heading up over hills to an area we haven’t visited since 2002. So it’s great to go back there, it’s known as secret France. Nice back-to-back streets with few people around, so it will be great for crews to get into the hills and enjoy their cars on some brilliant roads.

“On one evening section we’re very lucky to be going into the famous Monte Carlo rally museum of Antraigues up in the Ardeche, Yves Jouanny has invited us to enjoy his apple pie as well, which is traditional for the Monte Carlo Rally and we’ve been invited to do the same thing which is fantastic. So our competitors get the same treatment and get 20 minutes to look around his fantastic Valley Museum, then they can enjoy the Ardeche night section afterwards where there are some difficult roads in the dark lying in store for the competitors.

“On a couple of couple of evenings we do go late into the night, so it’s going to be really testing for both crew to navigate on the maps at night and for the driver’s skill, getting the right directions will be a challenge plus there will be a few fun plots in there.

“Even if there’s no snow, it could be icy. We’re expecting a bit of ice especially in the mornings as it’s been going very, very cold overnight, here in central France. So the mornings could be the testing part.

“The icing on the cake is called the Col de Turini, which has caught out many top drivers, but finishing on the Turini has become almost a tradition on this event now.”

Andrew Duerden navigator of car 29 with Michael Moss, should be up to the challenge as he has competed on the Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo quite a few times. Andrew, “The first year was 1991 which was an extremely snowy one, I think we had snow virtually all the way down from Edinburgh. We started at Edinburgh Castle and we came down over the Pennines and a got major problem over there with a snowplough stuck in the snow, We just managed to keep going but it was snow all the way. It was quite an adventure.

“It was it was my first ever one of these and we didn’t get to bed for the first two nights as I was driving the course car that year, I was considerably shattered by the time we got to Monte Carlo.

“There should be a few long nights on this rally, well into the night, the night trial section I think will be the crippler for some people. Luckily, I’m still doing a few night rallies every now and then at home, so I get used to it.

“You’ve got to use these Michelin maps to begin with, to do the transit sections and then really it’s just a matter of map reading for the regularities just to keep to the the route and then concentrate on the timing afterwards. So I am expecting the event to be quite difficult Yes, it always is on this one, there is a labyrinth of roads down in the south which make it hard to know where you should be going. My favourite part is just getting to the finish.”.

Klaus Mueller ((DE) and Rolf Pellini (IT) have brought their Lancia Fulvia from Germany after lots of preparation work over the last three months.

Klaus, “Yes it’s ready, I picked it up last week from the workshop that has done lots of work on the chassis. It was literally rusty after all these years of rallying the car, it was a major repair necessary but now it’s ready. I’m very happy with the car, it’s better than ever. So we are ready to go and let’s see what will happen.”

Rolf;” I think the first day will not really be in historic territory. But from the third day on the midsection we will most probably go into the Ardeche area, then I hope that we will eat tarte au pommes somewhere!  And then on the fourth day we might have some more old regularity areas. From Sisteron onwards there are some great names, the best of them all on the last day named the Col de Turini with tonnes of excitement, that’s what we’re looking for”

Klaus; “Rolf is a rally historian and the best navigator I can choose for this event. It was written that I was going to attempt my best Sandro Munari on the event after his famous Fulvia win in the 70’s. Thank you very much for this text. I was with a friend who read it and made a joke saying ‘hello Klaus Munari!”

“There’s a big history for Lancia, this car started much rally history for Lancia, it was a radical year. A lot of other cars did follow, a lot of World Championships followed so Monte Carlo was an historic thing. And I enjoy just starting with such a car. Of course it’s a car I like to own since I was nine years old. And it took 40 or 50 years to get one, but now I’m really going to enjoy this drive!”

Kevin Haselden, Mini Cooper S. With the Lancia being so good in snow as were the winning Minis in the 60’s, was Kevin in search of snow maybe?

“Yes, but I haven’t done this for quite a long time. We’re looking for some snow at the but of course that would make it quite challenging.

“More likely I think it will be icy in parts but, we all have to use the snow tyres, winter tyres with the three marks on on the side of them which are fine, but they lack a little grip if it is all dry. But if you do hit snow, I’m led to believe they work quite well. I’ve never really found out.”

Whilst talking in front of the Mini’s open bonnet, Kevin was asked to explain the yellow marigold rubber glove poking from the top of the distributor.

“This is a very, very technical piece of gear on the car which stops all water getting into the front of the distributor. The very worst place to put a distributor in a car is right at the front of the engine where it gets all the water, which is what the Mini designers did. It also tends to get condensation inside and then it starts misfiring and eventually stops. I have actually got a spare Marigold rubber glove in the car which if it gets really wet and the car stops, I will swop over!

“But for all the world when you lift the bonnet off, it looks as if someone’s lying underneath with their hand sticking up through the engine!”

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